Remarrying? Time to Bare All (Financially Speaking)

Maggie Scarf is a visiting fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University, and a fellow of Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University. She is the author of two books for children and six books for adults, including the New York Times bestselling Intimate Partners. She has made many television appearances (among them The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today show, Good Morning America, CBS News, and CNN) and has been featured in many newspapers and magazines, including People, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, and others. She lives in Connecticut with her husband Herb, the Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale, and is the mother of three adult daughters.

FinancialDiscussion_400Miscommunication about money can doom a marriage. Here are the financial details to share before the ring. From The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail.

While many couples on the eve of remarriage are quite comfortable discussing their sexual histories openly, the very idea of initiating a conversation about the state of their finances is fraught with feelings of intimidation and embarrassment. However, no conversation is more important when it comes to establishing a trusting, safe relationship. As Dr. Margorie Engel puts it, each mate needs to be secure in the answer to the question: “What happens to me if something happens to you?” A full disclosure of each partner’s financial identity is the best wedding gift the two could possibly give to one another.

Ideally speaking, what are the documents they need to share in order to fully understand one another’s financial standing? A comprehensive list appears in an article—one among a series of informative essays—that Engel has posted on the SAA website. It includes such categories as: “Credit card list; Household inventory and appraisals; Personal banking; Money lent to others; Money borrowed from others; Investments, including applications (e.g., for a bank loan) and a financial statement (bank account and stocks owned, etc.); Medical insurance; Life insurance; Personal property insurance; Tax returns; Employment history/resume; Employer policies/benefits; Retirement dollars; Income records, and (if it pertains) proprietorship or partnership in a family-owned business.”

The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail

The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail

by Maggie Scarf

  • Get The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail
  • Get The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail
  • Get The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail
  • Get The Remarriage Blueprint: How Remarried Couples and Their Families Succeed or Fail

Whew, this annotated checklist is long enough to take your breath away! And Engel suggests still other topics that should be raised in a premarital discussion due to their potential financial impact upon the pair. High on this new list are such issues as tax problems, needy children of all ages, looming college expenses, shaky job security, and extended family demands—an aging, ill parent, for example. As Engel warns, “Splintered loyalties, new responsibilities, and changing needs all force remarried couples to take into consideration the makeup of this new and complicated family.”

Of course there are often circumstances that are specific to a particular couple’s situation, as Engel is quick to note. Matters such as a lack of maintenance on a house or auto or appliances that may soon require attention will be part of a potential partner’s overall financial picture. So will a “time-bomb” health problem and any benefits that will have to be surrendered at the time of the remarriage—social security, mentioned above, or perhaps a job or a pension.

At the very least, asserts Engel, couples need to have discussions about certain key topics, such as each partner’s money management style; one person’s move away from his or her home state, quitting a job and seeking another one in a new locale; regular and irregular income sources; diagnosed health or emotional problems; inheritance money; retirement security; and health care proxies and wills. A key question to be asked and answered is whether the pair will want to have children together. This can become an important issue in a situation where, for instance, a man in his fifties who has already raised one family marries a woman in her thirties who yearns to start another—much to her presumptive spouse’s chagrin.

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